Translated to English, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” corners Czechoslovakian politics and love during a time of communism. Author Milan Kundera addresses Frederich Nietzsche and his views on love, fate and recurrence.
This intensely thoughtful book relates every instance of life to some philosophical instance, going on tangents completely non-related to the characters. In this way, Kundera does not follow social norms surrounding a work of fiction, and instead breaks the mold by incorporating anything he deemed important enough to consider.
The roundabout and reckless conglomeration does not take away from the power of the novel however. Instead, it adds a dimension that complete characters and tacky story lines don’t allow.
The main character, Tomas, is an outlet for social recklessness it seems, as he skips from love affair to marriage to affair, all while delving into politics and medicine.
Tomas encounters the “lightness of being” when he is thrown out of his medical profession due to politics, and his unexpected criticism of current society.
Unlike other novels, the characters are incomplete, left dangling in the present times they are handling rather than giving us a background in why they act the way they do.
The most expressive and advanced character is ironically Tomas’ dog, Karenin. By focusing on the dog so thoroughly, Kundera emphasizes humans’ obsession with pets and the love that we are required to show them.
By creating characters in such a discreet way, Kundera addresses such issues as how man can calmly live together and his philosophical beliefs on such an idea.
Feelings are important and reign supreme over the mind in some situations. Humans have a tendency to follow their gut feelings rather than their intellectual processes.
Kundera gives feelings a weight, attaching the effect that each decision will create an after shock into the future, so people must make their decisions carefully.
Being must have weight as well, according to Kundera. The weight is something that gives life, or being, meaning. It is presented through the characters when Tomas connects “Es muss Sein,” or “it must be” to his wife Tereza. This drives him through life, and gives his “being” meaning.
Kundera also attaches fate to the lives of his creations, placing them in situations and discussing situations where someone simply has to deal with an event. It is inescapable, and must be dealt with, leading a person’s life in a certain direction.
Fate is driven by coincidence, events that can be traced back which connect certain people together or to certain instances.
Kundera interprets love and life and connects it to political issues reigning in Czechoslovakia. Kundera philosophizes about the way to make it through life and weight one should attribute to “being.”
Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at verve @collegian.com.